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Emmitsburg, MD. 21727
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Investing in the Talent of Love

Rev. Paul V. Redmond
Professor Emeritus
Mount St. Mary's University

 MATTHEW 25:14-30

(11/16/08) Young Rabbi Jesus on the long journey to Jerusalem continues the spiritual training of his disciples. Jesus in his ministry of teaching was ever the master story-teller. Little by little the disciples were getting used to his favorite technique of teaching them by way of stories or parables' Gradually they became aware that Jesus in his story-telling always started out with a familiar incident from everyday life or from nature. This helped them to see "something more -like the "Kingdom of "God How they nudged one another and laughed uproariously at the humorous story of the persistent widow who pestered the unjust judge until he finally gave into her demands. . .(lest she put a rat in his mailbox). In their prejudice against the Samaritans they had a bit of a rough time in accepting Jesus' parable about the good Samaritan who went out of his way to help the man who had been injured. They reminded one another that Jesus had raised their minds and hearts when he told them the story of the "treasure buried in the field" or that of "the merchant in search of fine pearls." In those parables and others Jesus, the teacher, had triggered their minds and hearts to different aspects of the kingdom of "God." In this spiritual-training period they grew as disciples of Jesus in their daily give-and-take with him, their simply being together with him, and the different ways they began to relate with one another.

This day they grew wide-eyed at the fantastic story that Jesus was telling them. He smiled as he began the parable. Once upon a time, a man gave his servants preposterous amounts of money. To one of his servants, he gave five "talents"---(now a talent was worth six thousand denarii---and a single denarius, a full day's pay .. .. That's more than 80 years' pay). The second servant got two talents, the equivalent of a good 33 years' pay, and the third, a single talent, which still amounted to 16 years. The servants all realized that the master was a "demanding sort"---the first two got busy right away and chose to invest the money; the third hesitated. He was afraid to take the risk in investing the master's money. He simply buried it in the ground. When the master returned, this fearful servant lost out.

Friends, Jesus taught this parable as lesson in what we are to do and how we are to live as we anticipate the Day of the Lord, that is the Second Coming of Jesus. As the "Beloved of God" we are to invest our very selves in the service of the Good News of Jesus. This means that we allow the Good News of Jesus to speak to us, to make changes in our lives where such change are called for, and to live out the Gospel of Jesus as best we can. With hope and joy you and I can call on the Holy Spirit for the gift of prudence and courage as we struggle to become familiar with the increased challenges of the Gospel of Jesus.

It is easy for us to be "one talent" person and rationalize ourselves in playing it safe so as to avoid all risks. We might claim that we have only a little to offer-and that any difference we might make probably wouldn't even register.

Faith in the Lord Jesus demands at times that we do take risks . . the risk of losing our security in "blowing the whistle" when concern for the welfare of others is urgent. . . the risk of speaking "truth to power" in civil society or in the Church when our own conscience judges that such an action is the correct way to go. . . . the risk of growing as "citizens of faith". We find ourselves struggling to take a "counter cultural" stance in the "culture of death" which surrounds us: stem-cell research, abortion, euthanasia, the death sentence). I spoke about some of these matters in the past month. And soon we may well face the threat of FOCA, the "freedom of choice act" which, if passed and signed, would obliterate all legal restraints that have been placed on safe and sound delivery of a child.

Today, my focus is a deeper one: the one talent in which many Christians fail to "invest" or which they are afraid to risk losing is the talent of love. Too often each and every one of us is fearful about the ways in which we respond to God's love for us and the love of different people who come into our lives; fearful about the ways in which we can receive and give love… in regard to our parents, spouses, children, significant other, intimate friends, and strangers. We hesitate all too often, perhaps understandably, in our receiving and giving our love.

In his book, The Four Loves C.S. Lewis, a delightful Christian author who has influenced quite a few of us, addresses this fear of the servant who buried his talent, the person who buries his love. He writes:

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possible be broken. If you want to be sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one-not even to an animal (pet). Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safely in the casket or the coffin of your selfishness. But, in that casket -safe, dark, motionless, airless, (your heart) will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, unredeemable. The only place outside heaven, where you can be safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell."

Friends, in accepting God's love for us - and in filling out that love by loving others as ourselves, we will never be free from risk. We dare not "bury this talent of love" and avoid the risk of growing in surrender to God's ceaseless love and loving others as ourselves.

I am grateful to many of you for your witness of taking that twofold risk. . . a risk of giving your hearts away to the Lord and to others. The long life that several of us have had is a definite part of such a gift -- as we continue to give our hearts away.

Two years ago in the month before graduation I spoke at a Sunday breakfast to Mount students who had majored in English and philosophy. I began my brief speech, which was really a memoir of my own growth, with a poem by a British writer, A. E. Houseman:

When I was one-and-twenty
I heard a wise man say,
"Give crowns and pounds and guineas
But not your heart away;
Give pearls away and rubies
But keep your (imagination) free."
But I was one-and-twenty,
No use to talk to me.

At two-and-twenty I found myself agreeing with that pessimistic poet. One has to learn the hard way at times. But soon after, when I was three-and-twenty-roughly, three score years ago, I began to disagree deeply with him. In different ways in my journey -I found that the only way for me to live was for me "to give my heart away." . . . to receive and to give love. In continuing to do so, despite the pain at times, I remain solidly an optimist.

Little by little I entered prayerfully into what would become a life-long struggle to accept the Father's love for me through Jesus in the Holy Spirit and to fill out what that means. For me it means that I give my heart to him and to others. Despite my missteps, failures, and set backs, I found myself always wanting to continue to grow, to move beyond myself to whatever is beautiful, true, and good. I wanted to share with others the insights which had become part of me. I discovered different ways in which I could do so as friend, teacher and priest-at Mount

St. Mary's University and at different parishes including Saint Anthony's and Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

The ways in which I gave my heart away and still try to do so are stories for another day. Suffice to say now that I'm grateful that I can still do so -I'm grateful to the Lord that my days are full - as I find new opportunities. You have similar stories. May all of you experience an ever enriching joy that overrides any bittersweet moments. God love you always.

Read other homilies by Father Paul